Part 6: The Smart Way To Use Valet Parking Services

The Perils Of Valet Parking A Manual Transmission Car

Warn your friends... it's a bad idea. REAL BAD!

When using a valet service, you might expect that each valet is an expert at driving and fully proficient with stick-shift cars. In reality, this is not the case. Valet companies have a difficult time hiring workers who can handle manual transmissions, so they end up hiring workers who don't have this skill.

You might valet park your car and then find that the only manual transmission expert the valet service had went home 2 hours ago.

After rookie valets gain a certain level of experience, sometimes they get the brave urge to give a stick-shift a try.

Then they are asking what that burning smell is? (It's YOUR clutch!) That's right... sometimes valets practice and learn to drive manuals using customer cars. (Yes! Absolutely!)

If you have a manual transmission vehicle, I DO NOT recommend valet parking it, unless you really know who you are dealing with and know for certain they have the required skill.

(Just picture your car being stuck on a slight incline with the valet repeatedly stalling it, and then riding the clutch at high RPM. This happens. Not unusual at all.)

Oversized Vehicles

If you are driving a full-sized van or especially an SUV with a luggage pod attached to the roof or a car with a roof bike rack, this carries extra risk. Rookie valets could easily jump in the vehicle, drive it into the garage, and then BAM! It hits an overhead beam. Oops...

It happens! Whenever you are driving something that is oversized, and you are heading into a city, do a little research and make sure there will be a parking spot that will accommodate your vehicle.   

Also, if you have a bike rack mounted on to the back of your vehicle, even if there is no bike on it, it increases the odds of a collision happening. It's best to take that thing off before valet parking it. 

Another thing...

Full-size pick-up trucks are high-risk. A lot of valets get hired with no pick-up truck experience. The higher and longer it is, the greater the chance that something is going to happen to it. This is merely reality. And if the garage has tight spaces and tight corners, this elevates the risk further.

BE SURE to check your pick-up truck for damage EVERY TIME you valet it. Even if it is dark. You must do a vehicle damage audit immediately upon receiving your vehicle, not after you drive away.

When New Damage Is Discovered.

First, to be clear, you've got to find the damage before you ever pull away from the valet stand or driveway. 

That's rule #1.

Second, withhold the tip.

Third, summon for the valet manager.

Fourth, start snapping photos. Snap a face-shot photo of the valet who brought it out. Snap a photo of the damage, with your car on their driveway.

Fifth, tell the valet manager you expect full compensation, beginning with a refund of your parking fee. You want to begin the claims process. Ask for the claim form. Get the valet manager's business card. And tell whoever is in charge at that property that the valet service just fucked your whole day up, and you want it made right.

The valet parking service you are using at a hotel or hospital or elsewhere probably isn't staffed by the venue's employees. This is more often an outsourced service.

If your vehicle is damaged by the valet service, you can apply pressure to the venue's management to get action. You might even get comped certain things in their efforts to appease you.

Make demands:

  • You want your car fixed.

  • You want a rental car of similar quality and type compared to yours, and you want them to pay for all of it. (What I mean is if you have a new Mercedes, and they want to give you a rental that is a Ford Escort or a Dodge Dart, then that is a matter you can fight over. Make them pay for insurance too!)

  • And you want compensation in the form of free stuff to help compensate for the massive inconvenience and aggravation inflicted upon you.

    Free stuff could include a package of valuable things, such as unlimited free parking for the next 6 months, a free dinner for two at the venue's top restaurant, and a free stay for X nights (if the venue is a hotel).

It's possible the venue will play the outsourcing card, saying "Oh, YOU have to deal with the valet company about that."

This is unacceptable. These terms are intolerable. At a hotel... if your bed sheets had stains on them, are they going to tell you to deal with the outsourced linen company too? At a restaurant, if the meat had gristle in it, are they going to tell you to deal with their meat supplier? Or are they just going to handle it and get you new sheets or cook up another portion?

Tell them you don't care about their business arrangements. Tell them: "It's your property. It's your service. So it's your problem. You fix it. You pay for it. I don't want to hear excuses."

And in any email communications, send copies to both the valet manager and the hotel or venue manager, so that all parties are fully informed.

Unfortunately, it appears many valet companies are scoundrels when it comes to damage claims.

You have to be able to prove, beyond any doubt, that they are responsible for the damage.

Let me say once more: you cannot drive away and then find the damage later. You must inspect the vehicle immediately upon its return to you. Before you move the car, you must find the damage or notice missing items and YOU MUST make an IMMEDIATE issue out of it.

People assume that a valet company will do the right thing and take care of an issue like this. They assume they have insurance that will pay for damage their workers caused.

The reality is, insurance deductibles are very high in this business. So any damage claim they have to payout is painful. 

If one of their valets crashed a car last week, and the week before that too, and now they have another damage claim in the pipeline, they are going to try to stop the bleeding anyway they can.

Successfully dodging damage claims increases profitability. It means bonuses for managers, or no bonuses if claims are too high.

I think a lot of people give up easily when it comes to making valet companies pay-up. They RELY on this.

When they reject blame, you must be steadfast. Do not waver. Do not cave-in. Do not show weakness. You must persevere in ROBUST fashion. You're a steamroller and it is full-speed ahead. 


No delays. 

Explain the time-frame you expect for a resolution. 

Example: "Your company has 48 hours to affirm it's obligation to pay for this, and this and this... and to arrange for the repair work at the dealership of my choice."

And before leaving... nail down your package of compensation from the venue operator.

What to do when you discover new damage after you left...

This is a problem, because your position is much weaker. 

The chances of you being able to get them to pay-up might be just 5%. 

Though your position is weak, this does not mean you should give up.

Expect to win. Be prepared to go to war.

If going to the valet company's client doesn't do it, then if there is a way to go over that person's head, go for it. For example, if you are dealing with a hotel, reach out to the head of the whole company or their director of public relations.

The next step could be picketing outside of the venue. Or pitching your story to local TV news stations, or both.

If none of that works, then another option is to initiate a lawsuit.

Be careful about saying "You will get me a new car or I will go to the media and wreak havoc on your reputation," or anything like that. I'm not a lawyer, but that could be interpreted as extortion. People get in big trouble for that. However, it is okay to say "I want my car fixed, or I'm going to sue."

If it was dark and you believe the valet purposefully hid the damage while presenting the car to you, and if you discover the damage the very next morning after you had driven it straight home, then your chances of getting compensation are higher. 

Use your smartphone and start video-taping this discovery of damage. Show the time of day. Show the damage. Explain to your future viewers of this video what has happened.

Document all contacts with the valet company. What you said; what they said. Journalize all of it. Be prepared for a battle.

I just gave advice to somebody in this exact situation. During the presentation of the car, the valet had parked the car in a dark spot and held the door open in a way that concealed the newly inflicted large scratch on that door. (The customer even gave the valet a $5 tip.) The following morning, the scratch on this 6 figure sports car was discovered.

It was dirty of this valet service to conceal the damage, BUT THAT'S WHAT THEY DO! 

Dispute Amplification With A Twist

A new resource to handle bad service and unresolved problems are web services like:

  • (formerly "Shit List")

  • (Gripe O)


It appears they use the leverage of social media to inspire an outcome that is more to your liking — for free! Wow...

If anybody decides to go this route, I'd love to hear your story on how it worked out for you. 

(Ed's email:

Paying with valet parking using a smart phone...

This is a thing now in some cities — where you can pay for your parking and even tip the valet by downloading an app and hitting some buttons on your phone's keypad. Should you use these services?

Well, there are some real advantages to it:

  • You're not giving your credit card to a low paid cashier who might be tempted to moonlight by using other peoples' credit card info.

  • Fast exit. This method of payment can be much faster than a credit card transaction... because sometimes credit card processors are slow.

  • No chance of a double-charge on your credit card. (Sometimes people accidentally get charged twice for valet parking when using a credit card.)

  • Every time your credit card gets swiped somewhere, it increases the chances a little bit that your credit card info will be stolen by a hacker. So using your phone to pay could lower that risk.

  • Some of these apps give you the ability to tap a button when you are ready for your car — so that your car is ready and waiting for you by the time you arrive at the valet stand. That's a terrific feature.

  • Finally, if you have no cash to tip the valet, then you can avoid the embarrassment of stiffing the valet and appearing like a big cheapskate. You tip digitally through the app.

Here are the issues with paying that way:

Real paper currency is more impactful. And it will have even greater impact as more and more people begin to pay digitally. Digital tipping will make tax evasion by valets more difficult. They will value cash tips because it will be seen as tax-free money, and it's money they are able to hide from the tip pool. (Yes, I am referring to scamming their co-workers in the tip pool.) So real cash tips will carry greater weight on the appreciation scale.

(With valet operations that have a tip pool vs. every man for himself, the valets rely on each other to be completely honest about the tips they received so that each valet has a chance at making a fair day's pay. So it's pretty rotten of a valet not to be forthcoming with their co-workers about the cash tips they collected, but it happens. )

Sure, go ahead and pay for your valet parking with the app. It's fast. They don't see your credit card number. They won't be able to double-charge your card. It's a good thing. But my advice is to still tip upfront with real cash bills in order to influence the level of care and service.

When it is time to go, how you tip doesn't matter as much. Just make sure you examine your vehicle first for any new damage, missing items, or excessive mileage. If everything is okay, then you can give the departure tip. Most of the tip should be deployed on arrival. I recommend giving a lesser amount when leaving — as a courtesy. That departure tip can't do anything to undo any lack of care your car received. That's why I recommend deploying the bulk of the tip when you first arrive. 

Leave SOMETHING for the departure valet. If you will be returning to this venue again in the future and will again valet park your car, then especially don't stiff the departure valet. If you do stiff that valet, they might hold a grudge against you. And the next time they see your car, something might happen. You never know.
Well, that's about it.

My advice to you is to minimize the likelihood of a problem happening by taking simple steps to defend your car:

I'm not looking to sell Valet Client ID cards, "Codeword Method" cards, or vehicle damage assessment forms. (If you want that stuff, sure — I'll help you out.)

Mainly what I am looking for is WEBSITE TRAFFIC.

If you found my material useful, if it gave you value and you would like to do something to return that value, all I ask is that you spread my "" website around.

Share it with your friends. It would probably be eye-opening for them.

And I would GREATLY appreciate your endorsement.